For Bullets, a lot hinges on a lottery

April 20, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

After the Washington Bullets completed their worst season (25-57) in a quarter century by losing in Philadelphia on Saturday night, 111-104, at least half the players began wondering whether they would be sharing the same dressing room next season.

What to do with seven free agents -- Ledell Eackles, Harvey Grant, Larry Stewart, David Wingate, A. J. English, Andre Turner and Mark Alarie -- will be discussed by coach Wes Unseld and general manager John Nash in the next few months, with the Bullets' luck in the May 17 NBA lottery weighing heavily in the decisions.

The Bullets, out-rebounded and out-muscled in almost every game, believe much of their problem could be alleviated by the first pick, which would guarantee them Louisiana State center Shaquille O'Neal, or the second pick, which likely could get them Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning, a prototype NBA power forward.

Barring such good fortune, the Bullets could take the best player available or trade their draft pick, as they did last season, when they obtained point guard Michael Adams from the Denver Nuggets.

Adams is viewed as one of the keepers. So are center Pervis Ellison and Rex Chapman, a former Charlotte Hornet who made his belated Bullets debut Saturday after missing 60 games with a sore heel.

Chapman, projected as Washington's future shooting guard, is expected to test his heel in rigorous workouts the next two weeks to determine whether he requires surgery.

If so, the Bullets would like the operation to take place as soon as possible. This season, the team lost Bernard King and Alarie for the entire season after they underwent knee surgery in September.

The Bullets must decide which of their free agents are worth pursuing.

Grant, who was seeking to renegotiate his contract throughout the season and missed a number of games after the All-Star break because of tendinitis in his knee and a bruised shin, is needed for his scoring potential. But because of his small forward's body, he must improve his one-on-one skills.

Eackles, who switched from guard to small forward in the last two months, proved he could score, but still is considered a defensive liability.

Stewart, one of the season's few pluses as a free agent from Coppin State, is a candidate for the All-Rookie team. He could be a valuable frontcourt reserve next year.

English is a legitimate scoring threat, but also is vulnerable on defense and could be expendable if Chapman remains healthy. Turner is likely to lose his job if the Bullets choose to re-sign Haywoode Workman, who played in Italy last season.

"I'm taking a week's vacation," Unseld said Saturday night. "Then I'll start thinking seriously about all these things."

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